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Paschasius Radbertus

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ST., a noted Benedictine of the first half of the 9th century, was a native of Soissons, France. He embraced the monastic life while yet a youth, and was educated and domiciled at the convent at Corbey, in Aquitaine. He was there under the abbots Adelhard and Wala, whose favorite he was. The former of these abbots died in A.D. 826. Paschasius first came into public notice in A.D. 831, when he was still a simple monk. A little while after this he was employed as teacher, and in important missions. In A.D. 844 he was elected abbot of the convent, although he had never taken holy orders. In A.D. 851 he resigned this office, and died as simple monk in A.D. 865, at the atbbey of St. Riquier, where his time was zealously devoted to the study of theology and philosophy. He is now commemorated by the Church of Rome as a saint by order of pope Alexander II (A.D. 1070). In the history of Christian dogmatics Paschasius is celebrated as the originator of the transubtantiation theory, i.e. that the bread and wine no longer exist in the elements of the Eucharist after the blood and body of Christ have become present here by the act of consecration. Paschasius may thus be said to have raised a controversy which has disturbed the Western Church for more than a thousand years. It is called out into symmetrical form, as a theory, by the inquiries of a former pupil of his named Warin (whom he addresses as Placidius), who, having become abbot of New Corbey, in Saxony, requested his old instructor to draw up a treatise on the Holy Eucharist for the guidance of the young community. In the year 831, therefore, Paschasius Radbertus wrote his work, De Sacramento corporis et sanguinis Christi, of which, when it had become the subject of controversy, he presented a large copy to the emperor, Charles the Bald, in the year 844. In this treatise Radbertus sets forth the ordinary doctrine of the Church respecting the true and real presence of Christ's body and blood in the consecrated elements, but he goes far beyond all previous writers in defining the mode of that presence and its consequences. There had been scarcely any controversy hitherto on the subject of the Holy Eucharist, although John of Damascus, followed by the second Council of Nicaea (A.D. 787) and the Council of Frankfort (A.D. 794), had seen cause to censure the application of "figure" and "type" to the elements, while a Council of Constantinople (A.D. 754) had asserted their legitimate use. This shows the dawn of such a controversy.

The dialectical subtlety which had been employed on doctrines concerning the person of Jesus the Christ and the Christian Trinity was now, however, to be engaged for many a generation on those connected with the sacrament of Christ's body and blood, and the full tide of strife was set flowing by the clear and uncompromising statements of Radbertus. The substance of these statements is as follows:

(1) That the very body of Christ, which was born of the Virgin Mary, and which was immolated on the cross, together with the very blood that belonged to that body, and was shed upon the cross, are those which the communicants receive (and he does not hint at receiving in one kind only) in receiving the consecrated elements of the Holy Eucharist;

(2) That the bread and wine which are consecrated are wholly and entirely converted into the body and blood of Christ, so that they are no longer to be spoken of as being in any natural sense bread and wine;

(3) That this conversion ordinarily takes place in such a manner that it is not made known to the senses, God permitting the appearance and taste of the bread to remain as a veil to the great miracle which he has wrought;

(4) But that under special circumstances, to confirm the faith of doubters or to satisfy the devotion of saints, the fact of the conversion is made apparent to the senses by the substance of Christ's body and blood either in the form of a lamb, or presenting the color and. appearance of flesh and blood. Only one such instance is narrated, but it is said to be one out of many (Pasch. Radbert. De Sacram. Corp. et Sang. Christi [in "Bibl. Max. Ludg." 14:729]; Martene, Vet. Script. Collect. 9:367; Migne, Patrol. vol. 120).

This predise definition of the nature of the Eucharist was a novelty in the Church, as is shown by the catenas of authorities respecting that sacrament which have been collected by Pamelius in his Liturgicon, and by Grieranger in his Institutions Liturgiques. It raised a controversy at once among the theologians of the Benedictine order, and Radbertus endeavored to prove his statements in a letter addressed to one of his monks named Frudegarde, in which he collected passages from the fathers (Pasch. Radbert. Opp. Bibl. Max. Ludg. 4:749; Migne's Patrol. 120. 1351). The first to reply in writing to these novel opinions or definitions was Rabanus Maurus, abbot of Fulda (A.D. 822-847), and afterwards archbishop of Mentz (A.D. 847-856), in an epistle to a monk named Eigel, which has been lost (comp. Mabillon, Act. Sanct. Ord. Bened. sec. 4, 2:591). When the controversy attracted the attention of the emperor Charles the Bald, he required of Paschasius Radbertus a copy of the treatise, and. it was delivered to another monk of Corbey, Ratramnus, or Bertram, for examination. The result was an answer by Ratramnus in the form of a treatise bearing the same title as that of Radbertius, the point of which is to prove that there is a difference between the manner of Christ's presence when on earth and that of his sacramental presence in eucharistic elements; that in the latter "est quilerm corpus Christi sed non corporale, at spirituale;" maintaining, however, as strongly as his opponent the reality of that presence (Ratramnus, De Corp. et Sang. Domini; Migne's Patrol. 118. 815, Oxford ed. 1838). The great liturgical commentator, Walafrid Strabo, was also an opponent of Radbertus, and that portion of his work which deals with the subject is more in accordance with the writings of their Catholic predecessors (Walafridus Strabo, De Reb. Eccl. ch. 16, 17). Another opponent, and more radical than the others, was Erigena (q.v.). He held that the Eucharist is a mere memorial of Christ's death in past time, and not of his presence in the sacrament, a typical act of feeding, by which the mind of the faithful communicant intellectually and piously reminds him of the work of his Lord (Dillinger, Church Hist. 3, 73, Cox's transl.). With the death of Paschasius the controversy subsided for a while, but its revival by Berengar and Lanfranc in the 12th century makes it very evident that the doctrine pleased the superstitious tendency of those ages, and that this theory had been extending its effects far and wide on the popular mind, and finally the views of Paschasius Radbertus were stamped upon the authoritative theology of the Roman Church, under the name of Transubstantiation, by the fourth Council of Lateran, in the year 1215.

Paschasius was also the author of works entitled De fide, spe et caritate, and De Partu virginis. The former betrays most clearly his superstitious notions in religion. The latter is a bold defense of a doctrine held also by St. Jerome, viz. that the virginity of the Holy Virgin Mary continued after the birth of Christ, or, in other words, that Mary had given birth to Christ utero clauso, and that therefore she and her offspring should be regarded as free from the taint of original sin. (See Munscher, Dogmengesch. ed. Coln, p. 85 sq.; Walch, Historia Controversio sceculi IX de Partu B. Virginis [Gott. 1758, 4to]; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, 2:40 sq.) The complete works of Paschasins, with a short but excellent biographical sketch as introduction, were published by the Benedictines, entitled Opera, quorum pars multo maxima nunc primum prodit ex bibliotheca Monasterii Corbiensis (Paris, 1618, fol.). The works are reprinted in Migne's Patrologia, vol. 120. Comp. besides the authors already quoted, Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines (see Index in vol. 2); Neander, Hist. of Dogmas (see Index in vol. 2); Rickert, in Hilgenfeld's Zeitschr. fr hist. Theologie, 1858; Dieckhoff, Die A bendmahlslehre im Reformationszeitalter; Baur, Dogmengesch. vol. 2; Hausher, Der h. Paschasius Radbertus (Mainz, 1862).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Paschasius Radbertus'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/p/paschasius-radbertus.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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